Computerworld

I returned the iPhone 3G after only 6 days!

Why did I give up?

I have no excuses - I should have known better than to let my gadget envy get the better of me. But, with all the new way cool features added to the iPhone 3G and the fact that my existing AT&T plan allowed me to upgrade at US$199, I decided to join the other crazies in line last Saturday afternoon and spend 2 hours to get my hands on a new iPhone 3G. I've spent more than 20 hours since then trying to get it to do what I needed it to do (i.e., synchronize with Outlook, stay charged up for more than a day, not die when I touch a button, etc.) and then I spent another 3 hours yesterday trying to return it. For more about why I now feel like a moron, read on...

Why did I give up?

1. The battery life is absolutely horrible. I went on a business trip Wednesday morning. My phone had been charging all night and I left the house at 5am. During the day, I set the phone to fetch my e-mail every hour (since I knew I would be in client meetings all day) but left the network setting at 3G. I used the internet on the phone for maybe 10 minutes at most during the day. When I got to the airport at 5:30pm to return home, I barely had any charge left in my phone. Since lots of people were using outlets, I had to choose between charging my phone or charging my laptop. My phone won. I know that I should have set the network to Edge and there were a few other settings I could have tweaked to save battery life during the day, but do I really want to spend every day figuring out the best settings for my phone and then constantly having to set them to new settings when I actually want to use it? My Blackberry could go several days without a charge. Bottom line: I don't think so. I did order a battery booster that hasn't arrived yet. I guess I'll be selling it on eBay when it does.

2. I read a review that explained the battery issue in more detail and it completely scared me. The battery life is supposed to get much worse after 400 charges. If I have to charge the phone every day, then in pretty much 1 year's time, I will have to go without my mobile phone long enough for Apple to replace the battery and send the phone back to me, which they will kindly do for US$86. I guess what they are hoping for is that instead of paying $86, I'll buy the next generation of the phone and all the new required accessories for another US$300 instead of doing without my required appendage for however long it takes to replace. If it happens before 18 months (as required by AT&T), I won't even qualify for any discounts on the new phone so basically, I'm probably out closer to US$500. For me, that's a showstopper that I really didn't consider until I saw how abysmal the batter life really was for myself and how annoying the constant tweaking is to maximize its measly life.

3. The phone does not synchronize correctly with Outlook calendars. (Don't Microsoft and Apple want to even try to play nicely with the other children?) It might work on a pristine Outlook calendar, but not for an existing calendar that has recurring events, holidays, and all the basic NORMAL things that you'd expect to have in a typical Outlook calendar. If I enter an event on the iPhone, it shows up on the iPhone and may or may not show up in the Day/Week/Month view in Outlook. Sometimes events show up and then "disappear" in a subsequent sync. I put disappear in quotes because it's really still there - I can see it in the Active Events view - just not in the view that 99 per cent of Outlook users use every day. That might have been OK - I guess I could live with the fact that all I could do is look at my calendar on the phone, not actually update it. I made a plan to enter all events in Outlook first so that they'd be visible and synchronized on the iPhone and my PC and then if I were disconnected from my laptop, I'd write down the new event in the iPhone Notes application and enter it in Outlook when I get back to my laptop. However, I tried an experiment where edited an event on the iPhone that was initially created on the PC and when I synchronized 2 more times, the original event disappeared from the Day/Week/Month view on my PC (but remained visible on the iPhone). There is a very lively and active discussion thread among similarly frustrated Outlook users in an Apple support forum and I've got my own personal Apple Level 2 tech support guy sending all kinds of evidence to Apple engineering, but there does not seem to be any interest in getting this problem fixed (one recommendation was to switch my calendar to Google) and after trying a gazillion recommended "tricks" to fix the problem with no success, I finally decided that I couldn't risk forgetting that I can't actually edit my calendar on the phone. This is what actually set me over the edge and made me decide to return the whole thing, but it really gets worse.

Page Break

4. I would have been willing to keep the phone and pay for the re-branded .Mac service now called MobileMe to synchronize my calendar but guess what - although I could get my Contacts to go up to MobileMe in the cloud, my Calendar got stuck and no events will synchronize.

5. Since to date, you cannot synchronize Notes in Outlook to the iPhone (the software explicitly doesn't do this, unlike the Calendar sync which is really a bug), I had to re-create all my Notes as Contacts. This would have been OK if it were the only issue, but not combined with the big issues: Battery Life and Calendar Sync.

6. Within 4 days, my initial phone's motion sensor failed so I actually had to return my phone twice - once for a warranty replacement unit (Thursday night) and once for money (Friday night, when I decided to give up because I needed to sleep and get my life back). (Given that I wasn't the only person showing up for hardware replacement less than a week after launch, that is probably enough to make anyone nervous.)

7. When I tried to return the phone for money (OK, I was the first person to try to do this at the Apple store I went to so no one, not even the "geniuses" had any clue how to do it), the store manager eventually found out that there was no record of me ever buying the phone - in other words, they essentially gave it to me for free! She basically freaked out because she now thinks that they gave away more than just my phone in the frenzy to accommodate customers during the first 3 days it went on sale. The return took over 2 hours for this reason. I was lucky because an AT&T corporate store is literally around the corner from the Apple store in my local mall so I was able to get my Blackberry Pearl back to life in about 10 minutes after finally leaving the Apple store. I'm still a little nervous, however, because the manager would not give me a credit slip for the return (since her records show I didn't really buy it, despite the fact that I have a printed receipt). I did finally convince her to write a note that I actually returned the phone so I have some evidence in writing in case the charge actually shows up on my credit card statement.

I could go on, but here's my new resolution: I WILL NEVER, NEVER AGAIN BUY A NEW GADGET OR SOFTWARE WHEN IT FIRST COMES OUT!!!! I made the same mistake with Windows Vista so I really should have known better, but, I somehow thought that this would be different. I should have known.

But, here's the really sad part, I'm incredibly unhappy because I really, really, really wanted to keep the phone:

1. The applications: OMG, these are so much fun! Where, which tells you where the nearest Starbucks is (until they all close, of course) in one button and then also helps you find the cheapest gas. Shazaam, which lets you hold your phone up to any song and it tells you what it is and provides a link to You Tube and iTunes versions of the song. (We had a lot of fun with this - it even correctly identified some very obscure music.) Pandora - free customized internet radio. Check Please, which helps calculate tip and divide up your restaurant bill based on the number of people in your party (I was looking forward to using this for my monthly book group dinners). Remote, which lets you use your iPhone as a remote control for iTunes on your PC. These are only some of the free applications, there are also some pretty cool ones that you pay for, but thankfully, I didn't get around to that.

2. Visual Voice Mail: You can see who left you voice messages and play the messages back in any order you want. This is so handy because you can prioritize how you listen to voice mail the way you can with e-mail. I really LOVED this feature, but I actually think that part of the hardware flaws I experienced had something to do with this software. My phone died several times when I tried to access or play voice messages.

3. User Interface: The user interface is nothing short of stunning. The ability to rotate and zoom on text is unbelievably helpful for eyes like mine that are starting to deteriorate with each year after the "big" birthday. I will REALLY miss that aspect of the phone. Reading my e-mail (when it would fetch the whole message) was a great experience, pictures were beautiful and surfing the internet was spectacular.

If you really pay attention to all the reviews of the iPhone 3G by the tech gurus, you will find that most of them point out that it won't be for everyone. It definitely isn't for me, at least not yet. I've now got my eyes on the Blackberry Bold. I only hope I can resist the temptation to get it when it comes out in September!

Susan Hanley is an independent consultant and president of her own firm, Susan Hanley LLC, where she specializes in the design and development of portal solutions and knowledge management consulting.